If you were anything like me when I started freelancing, then you most likely made up a lot things as you went along. What do I use to do taxes? How do I keep track of projects? What is in your contract? These are many of the questions new designers ask, and I’m going to tell you exactly what my go-to tools are to run my business.

Quickbooks Self-Employed – $10/mo

Quickbooks Self-Employed is only $10/mo and is essential in running my business. I have the Tax bundle, which includes TurboTax Self-Employed so I can easily file and pay taxes.

Quickbooks Self-Employed lets you

  • track your mileage automatically
  • track and organize income and expenses
  • organize receipts
  • create and send invoices
  • easily pay quarterly taxes
  • transfer data to TurboTax (in the Tax Bundle Edition)

Toggl – Free

Toggl is a simple time-tracking app. I use it to track how long different projects take me to make sure that my prices are accurate. I don’t typically charge hourly, so this is mostly for my own knowledge. I use both the Windows App and the Android App and the free plan has been perfect for me.

Features I like

  • simple time tracking
  • idle detection (if you don’t do anything for 5 minutes, you’ll get a notification)
  • I can break down hours by projects, clients, or tasks to see where i’m making money, and where I’m not

Asana – Free

Asana is a project management tool and I love how easy it is to use. Finally making the switch to keeping track of projects in here has made my workflow so much more efficient. I actually created templates that I start every new web design or branding project off with. These are very granular step-by-steps of every single thing I need to do every step of the way.

I also use Asana to keep track of things like blog ideas, email templates, and business development/marketing ideas and tasks.

AndCo – Free

AndCo is an app I discovered via The Freelancers Union. I haven’t used it much yet, but it seems to have some features I was dying for. I especially like being able to create and send proposals, contracts, and invoice clients for down payment.

Features of AndCo includes:

  • Create invoices, accept payments online, and receive alerts when they’re viewed/paid.
  • Create customized proposals and contracts.
  • Track expenses, get reports, and bill them to your clients. Snap receipts, forward them via email or connect your bank.
  • Automatically charge your clients on a recurring basis
  • Track and invoice your time
  • Get reports on expenses, income, time and more.

Dubsado – $30/mo (Free for up to 3 clients/leads)

Dubsado is a CRM tool that looks pretty cool, though I haven’t used it much yet. What attracted me to this app is being able to automate workflows. For example, I can automatically send the client a proposal, contract, and invoice for down payment.

Some features of Dubsado:

  • Lead Management – Nurture your leads from a potential client to a booked client
  • Payment Processing – Your clients can pay your invoice online. Connects to Stripe, Square and PayPal for payment processing.
  • Contracts and Forms – Create and send questionnaires, proposals, and contracts that your client can sign online
  • Accounting – Keep track of transactions and outstanding invoices
  • Client and Project Management – Track time, manage tasks, files and client communication
  • Automation – automate workflows and responses to leads

I wish I could find an all-in-one solution but I find many apps that try to do too much are usually complicated to use. Although I try to keep my use of tools to a minimum, I’m always keeping an eye out for new ways to streamline and my processes.

What essential tools do you use in your small business or for freelancing?